Kathy McCarthy Grilliot

Kathy McCarthy Grilliot

Kathy McCarthy starred for the Bennett swimming team all four years in high school. Kathy was a pioneer in girls sports in Buffalo by becoming the first girl (along with teammate Lydia Manuel) to make a boys varsity squad. Trained by her dad, Vince, and coached by Byron Vickery, Kathy became the first girl to earn All-High honors by winning the 100 yard Butterfly in 1971. Kathy made believers out of doubters that felt girls could not compete at boys level on varsity teams.

In her first three years of competition, Kathy failed to finish first only twice in her specialty, the 100 yard butterfly event. Kathy also showed some versatility by winning several 400 yard freestyle events. During her sophomore season, Kathy was undefeated during the regular season, and came away from the All-High meet with another title. Kathy was the only girl to compete in that meet. As a senior, Kathy was a teammate of her freshman sister, Mary Lou.

Kathy followed her stellar high school career by landing a swimming scholarship to Lake Forest College (Illinois). Kathy Mccarthy Grilliot is now residing in Vienna, VA, and is teaching in the Respiratory Therapy Program at Northern Virginia Community College.

Pat Thayer Pietraszek

Pat Thayer Pietraszek

Pat Thayer was a multi-talented athlete who lived in the Buffalo University District. She was extremely well known for her athletic ability at her local playground besides school.

During the time that Pat attended Bennett, there was no funding for any girls’ interscholastic athletics in the entire city of Buffalo. However, Pat was a prime example of uncoached raw talent.

She was incredibly enthusiastic and instrumental in pushing for girls’ sports and was heavily involved in both intramural and pre-Title IX team activities. In 1969, students were notified of a petition asking for girls’ sports. Signatures were presented to Mr. Sikora, the principal, who essentially responded in a disregarding manner.

From 1969 to 1973, Pat was a staunch 4-year member of the Bennett bowling club. She continued bowling into her adult life and excelled tremendously.

Pat also played four years of intramural Volleyball. In her senior year, Physical Education teachers Miss Blue and Mrs. Henderson, entered a team into the Erie County Recreation Department Volleyball tournament. This was the girls first “real” competitive opportunity.

The third sport Pat was involved with was the pre-Title IX Basketball team. Pat was only one of four girls to play all four years. In her freshman year, Nottingham High School invited the girls to play their first and only game. The entire team had to walk to that school to play. Each year, more and more games were added. In her senior year, she played on the undefeated girls Bennett team that was 12-0.

Her fourth high school sport included two years of Pre-Title IX Softball. She was always a solid and dependable contributor to her team. All practices were held by Coach Mary Righetti at Shoshone Park.

Pat continued bowling after graduating, for 30 plus years and had her first perfect “300” game at Abbott Lanes in December 1996. She was the first female to bowl a “300” at Abbott Lanes and rolled games of 257, 300 and 200 for a 757 series. Pat was a member of the “Buffalo 600 Club” and finished in second place with a 286-688.

Pat was a fantastic Pre-Title IX athlete at a time when there was no “girls” Buffalo Public School funding, coaching, uniforms, practice time or transportation. WHAT IF?!

M. “Peachie” Beeks

M. “Peachie” Beeks

M. “Peachie” Beeks was a multi-sport athlete at Bennett High School in the early 1970’s during the pre-Title IX era when the Buffalo Public Schools offered no interscholastic girls sorts competition.

Fortunately, there were sports programs for girls in the Catholic High Schools, private schools and the Catholic Youth Organization. This provided a unique opportunity to set up games with those programs. Initially, all games were set up independently at the teams’ own expense and the transportation was provided by the players or their family members. Later, Miss Blue, the girls’ Physical Education teacher, assisted in organizing games by calling the Buffalo City Schools so they could draft girls to sign up for a team and play. Funding by the Buffalo Board of Education occurred several years later in 1974 and this finally established a citywide high school sports program for girls.

“The only way we could practice basketball at Bennett was in the 2nd floor school hallway using a large cardboard garbage can as a basket; or at city playgrounds with boys as long as we brought a basketball. Bennett did not provide any type of budget for uniforms, so we went out and purchased matching T-shirts and socks. My sister, Berniece Beeks, sewed the numbers on our shirts! As we continued playing and winning games, the team wanted a picture in the yearbook, so we all pitched in to have a picture taken and submitted it to the yearbook committee.” The teams’ win-loss record was 26 wins vs. 5 losses over a 3-year time span, with a 12 – 0 record in the final year.

Outside of Bennett, “Peachie” successfully participated in many sporting events over the years including, softball, bowling, basketball and volleyball. She also sponsored teams for the Empire State Games, Gus Macker basketball leagues, Buffalo City softball leagues and the Houghton Park volleyball league. Uniquely, she sponsored a G.I.R.L.S. Sports Foundation, Inc. team to take a girls basketball team to a WNBA game.

“Peachie” was employed by General Mills for 39 years and was the first female to secure employment in the Milling Department. In May 2017, she successfully retired after a wonderful career with General Mills.

Peachie’s greatest achievements include coaching a woman’s softball team to the City of Buffalo Championship and receiving the Black Achievers Award in Her most current athletic joy is playing pickleball.

Virginia Kuhlmann

Virginia Kuhlmann

Virginia ( Ginger ) Kuhlmann was a groundbreaking athlete who excelled in two sports during the pre- Title IX era at Bennett High School.

She played one year of Pre-Title IX basketball, and two years of varsity tennis. Quite an accomplishment at a time when there were no girls interscholastic sports in the Buffalo Public Schools.

Ginger transferred to Bennett in 1971, after two years at Holy Angels Academy. At Holy Angels, Ginger played two years of Monsignor Martin basketball and varsity tennis, plus participating in intramurals and the Ski Club. Ginger brought her knowledge of basketball to help Bennett’s “uncoached”, pre-Title IX basketball team to a 11 win, 2 loss season. She excelled in defense, rebounding and leading the fast break offense, while scoring 7.7 points per game.

In the spring of 1972 Ginger broke the all male barrier becoming the first female on the varsity tennis team at Bennett. As a junior Ginger played at first doubles, helping Bennett to an 11 – 0 record in Dr Bapst league play. As a senior, Ginger played at second singles, helping the Tigers to an 8 win, 3 loss season.

After high school, Ginger attended college for one semester, then started to travel. her first adventure took her to Israel in 1973. There she lived on a Kibbutz for 6 months, ultimately becoming a lifeguard at the swimming pool. She then completed 3 years at SUNY Buffalo. In 1977 she moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. There she opened a painting and wallpapering business that is still in operation today. While there, Ginger became an avid skier and made her first skydive. She now has accrued over 6,500 jumps. She was part of the organizing team that still holds the Guinness Book of World records for the largest formation, made with 400 people from 28 countries, to celebrate 60 years of Thailand’s reigning monarch. Ginger holds 6 world records and has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Breast Cancer research. In 2008 she organized a 125 person skydiving event in Ecuador, S.A. under the auspice of her good friend and student, the First Lady of Ecuador, to raise money for underprivileged children.

Ginger has traveled to all 7 Continents, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to 19, 341 feet, has over 300 scuba dives around the world and had snow skied at the best of resorts. These days, the well travelled and well rounded Ginger Kuhlmann plays ice hockey, fishes, rides bikes and of course, jumps out of perfectly good airplanes.

Edwin Johnson

Edwin Johnson

Edwin Carpenter Johnson (Ed) was born on June 15, 1955 in South Bend, Indiana. The family relocated to Buffalo and Ed began his education in the Buffalo Public Schools. He played football at Bennett High School from 1971-1973, and basketball from 1971-1973, co-captain 73, MVP 73, where he led the team in scoring, averaging 25 points per game. He graduated from Bennett High School in 1973 and went to SUNY at Albany. Ed later transferred to SUNY at Buffalo, where he also played Varsity basketball. He earned his degree in Bachelor of Arts in 1978 and then pursued a short career playing international basketball in France. Ed suddenly died on November 7, 2001.

Ed is survived by his 3 children: Jewel Askew (Terence, Sr. of Buffalo), Kellyn Johnson of Dallas, TX, and Christopher Edwin Johnson of Murfreesboro, TN: one grandson Terence Askew, Jr. who carries on his grandfather’s legacy through football and basketball.